CAMPER 2.0: Increasing Camp Accessibility for Historically Excluded Groups of Young People
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2022
Kansas City, Mo. – Three years after launching CAMPER: Camp Accessibility, Meaningful Participation, and Equal Representation in 2019, national inclusive youth development organization Camp Fire will continue to expand this critical grant with a new group of overnight camps in seven states.
C.A.M.P.E.R. was created to remove barriers and expand overnight camp opportunities among historically excluded identities including 1) young people from economically underserved backgrounds, 2) LGBTQ2S+ youth, and 3) young people with disabilities. Camp Fire’s goal is to ensure that all youth participating in its overnight camps feel welcome, emotionally affirmed, and physically comfortable – especially those who have been historically excluded from quality youth development experiences in the outdoors.
Between 2019 and 2021, this grant funding allowed the first cohort of 10 camps to increase training around cultural responsiveness and the specific needs of priority populations, as well as the removal of physical, emotional, and financial barriers.
Accessibility was addressed through facility upgrades such as renovated, ADA accessible bathrooms and showers, the addition of ramps, the construction of additional accessible cabins, ADA accessible paths connecting program spaces, creating sensory chill zones, and the purchase of assistive devices. Camps hired staff specifically to act as inclusion and support specialists to help campers and families navigate any barriers they encountered leading up to or, at camp. Camps also increased privacy in changing spaces, bathrooms, and cabins allowing for a more comfortable camp experience.
Camp Fire councils worked with Coaching Peace Consulting to reimagine some of its most popular camp games with all abilities in mind. Additional staff training and resources were created through this process, focusing on culturally responsive programming in order to best support youth with disabilities and neurodiversity, create safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ2S+ staff and participants, and self-reflection activities to help staff explore their own identities and power.
“We’ve seen incredibly exciting and encouraging results over the past few years with CAMPER,” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters president and CEO. “From the hiring of Inclusion Specialists’ at camps to support the accessibility and comfort needs of campers, staff, and families, to the ability to attract additional funding from new partners, to significant investment and work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and access as an organization, this grant has been paramount to our organizational advancement. We are grateful for how this initiative has helped us lay the groundwork for the future, so all young people truly feel welcome and thought of in our programs and at our camps.”
Participant councils are based in Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Michigan, California, Oregon and Georgia. The CAMPER initiative is made possible through an additional three-year grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.
For more information, please contact:
Erin Risner, Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters